God-Inspired Joy (2 Samuel 6:1-5,12b-19)

Did you know that dancing was good for you?  Good for your health.  Good for your mind, and your entire wellbeing.  Dancing is not just for joy anymore.  Did you know that there was an American Dance Therapy Association?  Dance therapy assumes that the body and the mind are connected.  In that way movement increases our emotional and physical health. Could it be good for our spiritual health as well?

Churches have included dance as part of our worship experience for decades. Our worship times at General Synod have been frequently graced by dancers and movement. Liturgical dance groups are often a part of a congregation’s youth programs such as the one at Second Church of Plymouth UCC in Manomet, Massachusetts. Their dance group participates in worship, is for first graders to middle schoolers and includes drumming. Can you imagine the energy they share? How good it is for them to learn that moving is an expression of prayer. At Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Illinois, their youth ministries include dancers called the Alpha to Omega Steppers. They rehearse regularly on Saturdays. In their mission statement, it says they are organized to, “provide our youth the opportunity to develop, discover, and praise God through spiritual dance and to “Step to Jesus” with one sound serving one God.”

First United Church of Christ in Green Bay, Wisconsin has this to say about its worship time on its website:  “When a person comes face to face with God’s Grace, their response is to return thanksgiving and praise.” Dancing is a response to Grace. That’s what David was doing when he danced for the Ark–responding to Grace. He got some pushback from the crowd but he didn’t let that stop him. We think about our sanctuaries as places of quiet and contemplation but sometimes, like David, we need to respond with joy and movement. Letting our young people move through that space expressing joy is a way of acknowledging that our spiritual lives are connected to our bodies. We can pray with everything we’ve got.

UCC churches around the country host all kinds of opportunities for church members and others to learn ways to move through God’s world. Some churches host Folk Dancing, some ballroom dancing, Tango (which has been compared to mindfulness in dance) and at the Fairfax Community Church UCC in Fairfax, California, they even host workshops in Ariel classes.  For those who don’t know, Ariel classes include trapeze arts and learning that incredible silk climbing and swinging you can see in Cirque du Soleil. What can your church organize to get your people moving in response to God’s grace?


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Sent with Power (Mark 6:1-13)

Jesus goes home.  Nazareth is where he grew up.  One might take for granted that they would welcome him with open arms but they don’t.  The hometown boy doesn’t get a brass band.  Indeed, they hardly know him.

Our churches are often like that.  Sometimes we don’t get recognized in our communities.  Perhaps our neighbors take us for granted or don’t even know what we do or who we are, or who we have become.  The new Local Church Profile is a resource for self-study produced for the use of congregations who are in the process of searching for a pastor.  But it is also a useful tool for the churches to evaluate where they are in their ministry and where God might be calling them.  The Profile (LCP) has a section for helping churches ask questions about who they are and where God is calling them.  It also has a section that asks churches to observe who their neighbors are and to ask questions about how their neighbors view them.

Did you ever think of that?  How does your community view your church?  Do the people in your hometown recognize the things you do?  What do your neighbors think goes on behind your walls?  Do they know what you believe?  Have you cultivated relationships with other organizations in your community?  How do other churches or other institutions see you?  Do they know you at all?

Some of our churches have thought about their relationships with other organizations and have reached out to their community.  Those relationships are with a variety of partners.  in Naples, Florida, the United Church of Christ there considers the Neighborhood Healthcare Clinic and Dental Surgical Room a mission partner offering financial support and volunteer opportunities.  In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the First Congregational United Church of Christ partners with the Johnson School of the Arts, a magnet school across the street.  In Hudsonville, Michigan, the UCC congregation has many community partnerships.  Some of these are youth oriented and they include:  Kids Hope USA, Intramural basketball, Head Start, and a diaper bank.

If your congregation was to develop community partnerships where would you begin?  With whom would you partner to make your presence felt and reach out to your community?  You might begin with the UCC partners in Service program at ucc.org, or you could just look around and see who is next door serving your neighbors.  Be known in  your hometown!

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Tithing: A Message “From the Big Pig!”

A man called at the church and asked if he could speak to the Head Hog at the Trough.  The secretary said, “Who?”  The man replied, “I want to speak to the Head Hog at the Trough!”

Certain now that she had heard correctly, the secretary said, “Sir, if you mean our pastor, you will have to treat her with more respect and ask for ‘The Reverend’ or ‘The Pastor,” but certainly you cannot refer to her as the Head Hog at the Trough!”

At this, the man came back, “Oh, I see.  Well, I have ten thousand dollars I was thinking about donating to the General Fund.”  Secretary:  “Hold the line–I think the Big Pig just walked through the door!”

One of  the topics that we pastors like to least discuss is money. So, I am not going to talk about money.  I am going to talk about blessings.  One morning, a gentleman gave the pastor a large check.  “I’m giving this because I am so thankful for all the blessings that I have been given through this church.”  How true it is that thankful people are also giving people.

We are thankful for all our church has done to help us build our lives on the solid foundation of faith in Christ.  We are thankful for its inspiring worship, its commitment to Christian Education, and its uplifting missions.  We are always thankful for the friends we have made in our church family who have enriched our lives in so many ways.

What shall we give to show our thanks to the Lord?  Throughout the Bible, God asks God’s thankful people to offer a tithe, or ten percent of our income.  Many of you rise to the challenge of this Biblical directive, and the church is grateful for your generosity.  Others make a commitment to give half a tithe, or five percent, and hope to move percentage point by percentage point towards full tithe.  Some folks in care facilities or who are on limited incomes and who previously were most generous find they cannot support the church monetarily, but they continue to keep all of us in their constant prayers, and we all certainly need that as well.

St. John’s is now on the brink of having to dip into the funds that were invested from the sale of the parsonage.  I would like you to consider giving just one or two dollars more per person for the remainder of the year.  What a difference that can make!  Also, if you are on vacation, please fill your offering envelopes when you return and place them in the plate.

God calls God’s thankful people to be generous people.  Through our sacrificial giving, we can continue to build the solid foundation that we have laid for our church and for the future of the church.  “Your treasure will be stored in the heavens, and since your treasure is there, your heart will be lodged there as well.”  (Luke 12:34)

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Celebrating 145 Years! Change of Date

St. John’s UCC will celebrate its 145th anniversary on Sunday, September 16.  The celebration begins with the 10:30 a.m. worship service and continues with a prepared luncheon in Opperman Hall following the worship service.  Current and former members, as well as previous pastors, are invited to this special occasion.  More information will be forthcoming.  (Note that the date for the celebration has been changed from September 9 to the following Sunday which is September 16.)  Please make the change on your calendars.

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Samaritan’s Purse: ‘It’s Christ Who Is at Work Here’ Pastor Ramon Rodriguez, Puerto Rico

Excerpts from Franklin Graham’s June Update:

Reverend Franklin Graham reports that eight months after last September’s hurricanes, our neighbors in the Caribbean are still hurting. Parts of Puerto Rico remain in the dark with no power. Only a few hundred people have been able to return to the island of Barbuda.  Countless houses are still waiting for rebuilt roofs and other repairs.

Samaritan’s Purse has teams deployed on four islands to repair or rebuild up to 3,000 houses and over 100 churches. This is one of the largest reconstruction projects the organization has ever attempted.  Our helicopter remains busy delivering generators and essentials to corners of Puerto Rico that still lack power.

In one Puerto Rican community, Pastor Ramon Rodriguez requested a stove and refrigerator for a couple whose wooden house was destroyed by Hurricane Maria.  The homeowner is a grandfather who said, “I have no money or no way to pay you.”  Pastor Ramon responded, “You don’t have to pay me.  This is a gift from people who are serving in the Name of Jesus.  It’s Christ who loves you, and it’s Christ who is at work.”

Many of the churches have continued to worship faithfully every Sunday, even though their roofs are gone and they have no way to rebuild.  On the island of St. Martin, Hurricane Irma destroyed the roof at the New Testament Bible Church.  The pastor’s home was also destroyed.  He and his family lived in the basement of the ruined sanctuary.  He prayed for help, and on a Wednesday in mid-January, members gathered in the roofless sanctuary to pour out their hearts to God and to ask Him to supply their needs.  In a matter of weeks Samaritan’s Purse crews came and were able to replace the church roof, enabling the congregation to once again gather for worship and resume their outreach programs in their city.

Thank you for your prayers for everyone in the Caribbean.  Samaritan’s Purse will continue their work on the islands for months to come–as well as in Texas, where Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are busy helping up to 1,000 families get back into their homes which were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

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Heifer Mission Project Update

The 2018 Mission Project sponsored by the Board of Christian Education is Heifer International.  Donations from January through June total $1388.86.

Here is the list of donated animals thus far:  flock of chickens $20.oo; honeybees $30.00; trio of rabbits $60.00; one llama $150.00; one heifer $500.00; sheep $120.00; goat $120.00; pig $120.00; ducks $20.00; tree seedlings $60.00.  Our current project is to contribute enough money for a water buffalo which is $250.00.

Thanks to everyone for your generous support of this most worthwhile project.  We continue to donate to Heifer International and will be working toward a larger Heifer project this fall.


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Summer Hours Begin Sunday, June 3, 2018

St. John’s UCC begins its summer hours for Sunday School and Worship on Sunday, June 3.  Adult Sunday School classes begin at 9:00 a.m., and Worship begins at 10:00 a.m.  Children’s hour takes place during the worship service hour.  The summer schedule remains in place through Labor Day Sunday, September 2, 2018.

All are welcome to participate in Sunday School and Worship at St. John’s UCC which is located at the corner of College Avenue and Jackson Street in Bluffton, Ohio.

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Food Pantry in Need of Supplies During July

You will notice that the food pantry shelves empty out quickly, especially after the third Saturday distribution takes place.  Out of our abundance, we need to meet the needs of others.  On a Sunday morning, open your cupboard door and pull out a can, box, jar of something and bring it in and place it on the table at the front of the sanctuary.  (Please check expiration dates before bringing in items.)

Currently, during the month of July, the food pantry is in need of canned fruits–especially mandarin oranges.  Spaghetti and other kinds of dry pasta are also needed.  

The month of July finds the shelves almost empty.  Please do your best to bring items to the pantry before the next open house which is Saturday, July 21.

Thank you!

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

Centering Prayer for Sunday, July 15:  O God, before the temple was ever  built, you showed us that your glory could not be confined to a building or a location, but it is shone forth best in the hearts of your people. Shine forth in us, Lord. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Sunday, July 15–Worship service 10:00 a.m.; Pastor Carol Clements’ message is titled “Standing On Your Heard for God”, and is based on II Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-23.  The presence of God in human life results in a joy that exceeds that generated by other relationships and by the usual day-to-day experiences of life. This lectionary text uses a somewhat bizarre incident in David’s life as the vehicle for transmitting its message.

The second scripture is Mark 6:14-29–When John confronted Herodias and Herod Antipas with the charge of adultery, Herodias formulated a plot to kill John instead of changing her immoral behavior. She got rid of the one who had shamed them both in public. This is also what other religious leaders were trying to do to Jesus.

There will be a time of fellowship in Oppermann Hall following the worship service.

Sunday, July 15–Board of Christian Education meets following the worship service.

Monday, July 16–Bluffton Area Community Assistance Board meeting, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, July 17–Ladies meet at LuLu’s, 9 a.m.; TOPS, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, July 18–Men meet at Arby’s (8:30 a.m.)

Thursday, July 19–Community meal at the Senior Center, 6 p.m.

Saturday, July 21–Food pantry distribution, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Thought for the Day:  When God says do it–do it!

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Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

If you would like to volunteer for helping serve at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Lima on Tuesday,  July 24,  please sign up on the bulletin board in the sanctuary.  Helpers are always welcome.

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